5 most popular sports in Iceland

Sports are an important part of Iceland’s culture. The country’s residents are not only fond of watching and playing different forms of sports, but its professional athletes have been quite successful internationally as well. 

While the locals like a wide range of sports, some are preferred over others. Here is a brief insight into the five most popular sports in Iceland.

Football In Iceland

Not surprisingly, football is the most popular sport in Iceland. The country has been a prominent participant in international football for many years and hosted the U-18 European Championship in 1997.

The country’s residents like to watch football more than any other sport, although the national teams have only managed to qualify for a major international tournament five times. The men’s team qualified for FIFA World Cup for the first and only time in 2018. The team also played in the UEFA Euro 2016.

The women’s team has played in the UEFA Euro thrice in 2009, 2013, and 2017. Iceland’s famous player Eiður Guðjohnsen played in international leagues. He played for Chelsea F.C., La Liga, and Copa Del Ray and won the Premier League twice. He was also a part of FC Barcelona when it won the UEFA Champions League.  

Iceland also has a domestic league system, and the Icelandic Premier League is the top-most professional league in the country. It has 12 clubs and follows a relegation and promotion system with the Icelandic First Division.

Golf In Iceland

It may come as a surprise to many but golf is a very popular sport in the country. It may be deemed an expensive sport, which is why it is not very prevalent in most countries. However, it seems that the locals are quite fond of playing and watching golf matches. 

The number of golf players has increased considerably in the last ten years. Iceland has more than 20000 golf players who love to play at an amateur level and consider it a great recreational activity. The National Golf Association works effectively to facilitate the development of the sport, particularly among youngsters who have begun to take an interest in golf.

From a professional perspective, we may not find many names in Iceland’s history. One of the most notable players is Ólafía Þórunn Kristinsdóttir, who played full-time on the LPGA Tour. 

Handball In Iceland

Iceland’s national sport may be wrestling, but many consider handball as the national sport, given the national team’s success internationally. Iceland’s national handball team is the most successful sports team in the country. The team won a silver medal at the Olympics in 2008 and a bronze medal at the European Championship in 2010. 

Handball is very popular as a participatory sport in Iceland, as thousands of people play it on a regular basis. Considering the increasing interest in the sport, the Icelandic Handball Association worked in collaboration with local communities to improve playing facilities across the country, where the residents prefer to play handball and basketball more than any other sport.

Iceland also has a domestic league system. The men’s handball league was one of the finest in Europe.

Basketball In Iceland

Basketball is another popular sport in Iceland. Iceland’s basketball team may not be as successful as other sports teams in the country, but the sport is very popular among the locals. When given a choice among many types of sports to play, they would choose basketball or handball above others after football. 

The national basketball team made its first international appearance in 2015. It has qualified twice for the EuroBasket. The team has not yet qualified for the FIBA World Cup, though. The national team also participates regularly in small-scale regional tournaments, for instance, The Games of the Small States of Europe.  

Equestrian Sports In Iceland

Lastly, we have equestrian sports on our list. Horse riding is a very popular activity in Iceland. However, it is not as popular as a competitive sport as the locals like to do it for fun and consider it a form of good outdoor physical activity. 

The Icelandic people love to do horse riding on Icelandic horses. A world-renowned breed that is small in size, often the size of a pony. These Icelandic horses are known worldwide and found in North America and some parts of Europe. These horses are sturdy and do not fall prey to illnesses and diseases in the native air. 

The government has banned the import of other horses in the country to promote the breeding of these horses. While the locals love to ride them, they are also used for horse racing, sheepherding, or exhibitions.


What Is The National Sport Of Iceland?

In Iceland, sports play a significant role in the cultural and social life, with the country enjoying a variety of athletic activities. Among the many sports enjoyed in Iceland, handball stands out as the most popular and is often referred to as the national sport. This acclaim is not without merit, as Iceland’s national handball team has achieved considerable success on the international stage. They have a history of impressive performances, including winning silver at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and bronze at the 2010 European Championship. Additionally, they have clinched three World Championships and six European Championships, underscoring their prowess in this sport.

Although handball is the most celebrated, Icelandic sports are diverse and include football (soccer), athletics, golf, basketball, tennis, volleyball, swimming, and chess. This wide range of sports indicates the versatile interests of the Icelandic people in various athletic disciplines. Moreover, an ancient sport known as “glima,” a traditional form of wrestling, has deep historical roots in the country and is often mentioned in the old Icelandic sagas. This highlights the long-standing connection between Icelandic culture and sports.

Therefore, while many sports find their enthusiasts in Iceland, it is handball that is most frequently identified as Iceland’s national sport, reflecting the country’s significant achievements and the sport’s deep-rooted popularity among the Icelandic populace.

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